PENCE SPIKED JUDGE FISHER'S 7TH CIRCUIT NOMINATION: In January 2018, Judge Michael Kanne received an unexpected call from the White House. Kanne, an Indiana native who sits on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, was then 79 years old. Under leadership of Don McGahn, the White House counsel’s office was focused almost singularly on filling the federal bench with conservative judges, and in Kanne, Trump’s lawyers had spotted an opportunity to nudge out an old-timer and lock in a conservative who could serve on the federal bench for decades to come. Rob Luther, a McGahn deputy responsible for nominations, had phoned Kanne to suggest he retire. Luther told the judge the White House had a successor in mind: Tom Fisher, Indiana’s solicitor general and a former clerk for Kanne (Politico). “I had not intended to take senior status because that wasn’t my plan, but if I had a former clerk who had the chance to do it, then I would,” Kanne said in an interview. “On the consideration that he would be named, I sent in my senior status indication to the president.” Taking the status, a form of semi-retirement for judges, would allow Kanne to continue working while creating a vacancy on the bench for Trump to fill. It seemed like the perfect plan — until Vice President Mike Pence’s aides got wind of it and scuttled Fisher’s nomination, according to five people familiar with the events. As solicitor general of Indiana, Fisher had defended Gov. Mike Pence’s policies in court, and aides to the now-vice president feared his nomination would dredge up events and information politically damaging to Pence. In a series of tense conversations with the White House counsel’s office, Pence’s lawyers, Matt Morgan and Mark Paoletta, and his then chief of staff, Nick Ayers, objected to Fisher’s nomination, which died before it ever became a reality. Pence himself was kept apprised of the conversations. The clash provides a rare glimpse into the vice president’s political calculations and ambitions, which he has been excruciatingly careful to conceal since signing on to the Trump ticket in the summer of 2016.

HOLCOMB SEEKS $300M IN SURPLUS FUNDS TO PAY DOWN DEBT: Gov.  Eric J. Holcomb will seek to use $300 million in new surplus funds to pay down one-time projects, including the complete of the U.S. 31 freeway from Indianapolis to South Bend (Howey Politics Indiana). “Indiana’s economy is on a roll, and our reserves are healthy because of robust revenue growth. It is of paramount importance that Indiana continue sound fiscal management to further fortify our strong fiscal position," Holcomb said. "Therefore, I am recommending we use nearly $300 million of reserves to pay for several one-time capital projects and to finish the free-flow of U.S. Hwy. 31. We have an opportunity to reduce our ongoing costs by paying cash rather than borrowing for several projects approved by the Indiana General Assembly in this year’s legislative session. Paying for capital projects now maintains Indiana’s low debt burden, avoids lease obligations over the next 25 years and leads to taxpayer savings of more than $100 million. Earlier this week, I discussed these recommendations with House Speaker Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem Bray, including my desire that the state maintain fiscally responsible reserves of nearly $2 billion or 12.2 percent of expenditures after putting aside money for the following capital projects: $50 million for the swine barn at the Indiana State Fairgrounds; $73 million for the Purdue College of Veterinary Medicine teaching hospital; $60 million for the Ball State University STEM and Health Professions facilities; and $30 million for the Ivy Tech Columbus main building replacement.

KLUTZ ANNOUNCES SURPLUS OF $410M: In outlining Indiana’s 2019 Year-End Report, which highlights the state’s fiscal year ending June 30, 2019, Auditor of State Tera Klutz, CPA, announced Indiana ended FY19 with a budget surplus of $410 million allowing the state to close the books without utilizing reserves (Howey Politics Indiana). The Year-End Report, prepared by the Office of Management and Budget, shows Indiana maintaining reserves of approximately $2.3 billion or 13.9% of current year expenditures, representing an increase from FY2018. “By continuing to operate our state in a fiscally responsible manner, Indiana has maintained reasonable reserves while addressing some of our most important challenges.  As the state’s Chief Financial Officer, I am pleased that Indiana has maintained its AAA credit rating and remains a fiscal leader nationally,” said Klutz.  “However we cannot get comfortable relying on our reserves to bail us out as there are still many challenges to confront.  We must continue to find the most effective and efficient ways to offer needed services for all Hoosiers, especially those less fortunate.”

THE MELTON & MAC TOUR BEGINS: A statewide listening tour with Indiana’s schools chief and a state senator kicked off Thursday night under a political banner reading "Eddie Melton." The duo will focus on education concerns from Hoosiers, but the tour isn’t without controversy (Lindsay, Indiana Public Media). After it was announced, the chairman of Indiana’s Republican party sharply criticized State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick for joining state Sen. Eddie Melton (D-Gary) on the statewide listening tour. Melton is considering a run for governor. GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer said in a statement following the announcement it seemed like McCormick was auditioning for a spot on a potential Democratic 2020 ticket. “After being on stage at our Republican Conventions in 2016 and 2018, running on GOP ideals in 2016 and accepting campaign aid from thousands of Republican Party supporters across the state, it begs the question whether Jennifer McCormick is still a Republican,” he said. “Education isn’t about a party, education is about kids and it’s extremely important that we come together and we are good listeners,” McCormick says. “Education should not be a political issue. It should be an issue that we all can collectively come around and figure out how do we provide the best education for every single child in the state of Indiana no matter what zip code they live in,” Melton said.

TRUMP PULLS PLUG ON DRUG COST CONTAINMENT PLAN: President Donald Trump is withdrawing a plan to ease the financial bite of costly medications for people on Medicare by letting them receive rebates that drugmakers now pay to insurers and middlemen, the White House said Thursday (AP). The once-highly promoted plan from Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar ran into opposition within the White House. The pushback grew after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the plan would have little impact on manufacturer prices and cost Medicare $177 billion over 10 years by leading to higher premiums subsidized by taxpayers. White House spokesman Judd Deere said the proposal to create the rebate program was withdrawn "based on careful analysis and thorough consideration." It was not immediately clear whether that meant the end of the debate on rebates because other proposals on the same issue could surface on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are working with the administration on drug cost legislation.

SEN. BRAUN DISAPPOINTED BY DRUG COST MOVE: U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, who campaigned on containing skyrocketing drug prices was not pleased at the White House move to withdraw from Medicare cost containment (Howey Politics Indiana). “Nobody is working harder than President Trump to lower the cost of healthcare, but the administration’s decision today to allow the corrupt practice of middlemen negotiators pocketing patients’ money through rebates is a clear victory for big health care and a loss for patients," an obviously disappointed Braun said Thursday. "This fight is not over and I will continue to push my legislation that forces these savings to be directly passed onto consumers.” The rule was backed by Health and Human Services Sec. Alex Azar, a former Lilly executive, but found opposition within the White House concerned about $180 billion in costs. Braun had proposed legislation to force drug middlemen to pass savings to consumers. 

PERCENTAGE OF INDIANA COLLEGE GRADS IS INCREASING: The percentage of students graduating from Indiana public colleges is increasing, and more students are graduating on-time, according to the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s new College Completion Report, released today (Howey Politics Indiana). “Most of the new jobs being created now and in the future require a credential beyond a high school diploma,” said Indiana Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers. “The data in this report serve as an important gauge for how Indiana’s colleges and universities are preparing students, and how vital the support of the Indiana General Assembly is to the state’s continued success in higher education.” College completion is measured as the percentage of learners who successfully earn a degree or credential. The Commission’s report measures the proportion of learners who complete their degree or certificate by campus, including one-page snapshots of each public Indiana campus. Over 40 percent of all Indiana public college students graduate on-time, or within four years for a bachelor’s degree and two years for an associate degree. On-time graduation increased by almost 13 percentage points between 2013 and 2018 and by more than two percentage points in a one-year period (2017 to 2018).

CHINESE HALT PLANS FOR MISHAWAKA ELECTRIC CAR PLANT: John Zhang, the CEO of SF Motors, stood beside Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and local elected leaders last May and touted ambitious plans to invest $160 million in the former AM General Commercial Assembly in Mishawaka. The goal: to produce cutting-edge electric vehicles that would be sold across the United States (Bauer & Booker, South Bend Tribune). One year later, the plans to assemble the company's main vehicle, an SUV called the SF5, have been halted. And layoffs have been announced at the company's California headquarters. The company's new CEO, James Taylor, announced the layoffs in a letter read to employees Wednesday at the Santa Clara headquarters. The Tribune acquired a recording of the letter being read aloud. The news website The Verge also reported on the layoffs and halted production. It's unclear what the decision means for the 85 workers now at the Mishawaka plant, and it doesn't bode well for hundreds more jobs that were supposed to be created locally. The company initially announced plans to hire 467 workers at the plant by 2020, along with the goal of having SF5 on American roads by the end of this year. Earlier this year, Chinese automaker Sokon rebranded SF Motors as Seres Automotive, and it said work was underway to retool the Mishawaka plant for electric vehicles.

TRUMP STOKES ATMOSPHERE OF FEAR & LOATHING: President Donald Trump spent Thursday feeding the fires of fear and conspiracy he thinks he needs to keep burning to stay in power beyond 2020. The administration finalized plans to target undocumented families in mass raids announced in advance -- perhaps for maximum political effect -- which are sowing anxiety in 10 cities (CNN). Covering up a reversal in his bid to add a citizenship question to the census, Trump said liberals want to hide "illegal aliens in our midst" and questioned the loyalty of his opponents. "This is part of a broader left-wing effort to erode the rights of the American citizen," he said. At a "social media summit" of invited conservatives, Trump tried to redefine free speech as information favorable to him and warned Democrats were attempting a communist takeover. "Some of you guys are out there. I mean it's genius, but it's bad," Trump told a crowd including fringe social media personalities and conspiracy theorists who carry his message. It was a glimpse of the bunker mentality shaping Trump's reelection campaign, rooted in themes of national identify and patriotism, the singling out of outsiders and the demonization of Democrats as extreme radicals who want to destroy America.

RECORD ECONOMY GOES 121 MONTHS: At the end of July, America’s economy will have been growing for 121 months, the longest run since records began in 1854 (165 years), The Economist writes. The puzzle: History suggests there will be a recession soon. And plenty of people are gloomy. Bond markets have been sounding the alarm. ... Manufacturing firms are wary; indices of business confidence are tumbling. Yet the stock market "is going gangbusters, rising by 19% so far this year. And in June America’s economy created a whopping 224,000 new jobs, more than twice as many as needed to keep up with the growth of the workforce." The bottom line: Between President Trump and 2020 Dems, the "greatest threat to America’s long and placid expansion is that a new era of wild policy may be just beginning."

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: News that Vice President Pence spiked a 7th Circuit nomination for Thomas Fisher is just the latest example of the veep's political calculations trumping other considerations. It's a similar tale to that of long-time Pence friend Peter Rusthoven, who is not on the Indiana Supreme Court despite his obvious qualifications. It's all about Mike. Always has been. - Brian A. Howey


LAKE TO ATTEMPT 2ND TRY AT 6TH CD: Community activist and businesswoman Jeannine Lee Lake has announced she is seeking a second bid for the Democratic nomination to become the first United States Congresswoman representing Indiana’s Sixth Congressional District (Columbus Republic). Lake, who won the May 2018 primary but lost to Rep. Greg Pence, R-Ind., in the general election in November, is a 30-year journalist and longtime community leader who chairs the Feed My Sheep charity. “Last time out was my first foray into politics and I believe I did it for the right reasons, because I care about my country and I am concerned about the state of our democracy as the greatest nation in the world,” Lake said. “This time around, seeing the degradation of the leaders in this administration, I have a greater sense of urgency to redirect Americans to our better selves. Sure, we have differences in policies at times, but we must all remember that we only work well as the United States of America.”

HALE SEEKING 5TH CD IN SO-CALLED ‘PURPLE’ DISTRICT:  Christina Hale has joined the Democratic Party contest for the nomination in the 5th Congressional District. Hale, who ran for lieutenant governor with gubernatorial candidate John Gregg in 2016, announced she is seeking the party’s nomination for the 5th District seat that includes all of Madison County. She joins the 2018 candidate, Dee Thornton, in seeking the nomination (de la Bastide, Anderson Herald-Bulletin). Incumbent Republican Susan Brooks recently announced that she is not seeking reelection in 2020. Thornton lost to Brooks in the 2018 general election receiving 43% of the vote. “I heard she was thinking about running,” Ludy Watkins, chairman of the Madison County Democratic Party, said Thursday. “She would be a strong candidate. “She is really concerned about the opioids problem," Watkins said, adding "I believe it is a winnable seat with the right candidate." The last Democrat to win in the district was Jim Jontz in 1986. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee believes the district, considered one of the strongest Republican in the nation, is now leaning more Democrat. Brian Howey, puboisher of Howey Politics Indiana, said the Democratic committee believes it is becoming more of a “purple” district. I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said. “Indianapolis and Hamilton County remain a bright blue and areas around Anderson are a crimson red. “It will be a tough district for a Democrat to carry,” Howey said, “with Donald Trump and Mike Pence on the ballot along with Gov. (Eric) Holcomb with a 61% approval rating.” Howey said Hale would be favored to win the Democratic Party nomination in the primary.

MERRITT CALLS FOR FOOD SECURITY: Referring to the one in five people in Indianapolis who have limited access to healthy food options, Indianapolis mayoral candidate Jim Merritt called on Mayor Hogsett and the City-County Council to “amend Proposal 258 before it’s too late, with a plan that will truly address food apartheid” (Howey Politics Indiana). Sen. Merritt made his remarks at an event this morning at the Learning Garden of the Butler Lab School #60 on the north side of the city. Joining Merritt were community members Paula Barnett and Alexandra Bishop, as well as Jonathan Lawler of Brandywine Creek Farms, whose goal is to help eliminate food insecurity in all of Central Indiana. Proposal 258 was introduced during Mayor Hogsett’s State of the City address. According to Merritt, “This Monday, the City-County Council will be voting on a proposal that spends over half a million of your tax dollars with no clear help for people in need. Sadly, Proposal 258 will likely make the problem worse. Therefore, I am asking the mayor and the council to amend Proposal 258 and implement the recommendations I made three weeks ago.” Mayor Hogsett’s proposal, according to Merritt, “claims to address the problem of food deserts (but) is more political window dressing instead of serious problem solving.”

HILL RAISING REELECT FUNDS: Attorney General Curtis Hill Jr. hasn't officially said whether he's running next year for a second term as Indiana's lawyer. But the Republican is piling up campaign cash seemingly in anticipation of a tough fight ahead. Hill said Wednesday that he raised more than $220,000 in May and June, which he claims is the most ever taken in during the period by a sitting attorney general (Carden, NWI Times). That total, however, could not be verified through Indiana's campaign finance reporting system, since statewide candidates are not required to fully detail the donations they've received this year until Monday. At the same time, state records show in the past two months Hill has taken in a total of $77,500 in "large donations" of $10,000 or more, which must be reported within one week of receipt. Those include $20,000 from the Washington, D.C.-based Republican Attorneys General Association, where Hill is vice chairman; $25,000 from Connecticut-based private equity investor Thomas McInerney; and $12,500 from John Catsimatidis, a billionaire New York businessman. Sources have told Howey Politics Indiana that the Republican Attorney Generals Association had given $100,000.

Presidential 2020

BIDEN LEADS IN NBC/WSJ POLL; PETE AT 7%: Former Vice President Joe Biden is leading the crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates, with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren in second place, according to a new poll out Thursday. Biden tops an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll with 26 percent support, followed by Warren at 19 percent and Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Bernie Sanders of Vermont each at 13 percent (Politico). South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg ranks fifth with 7 percent support, while entrepreneur Andrew Yang and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke register at 2 percent. The remaining candidates are at 1 percent or less.

BUTTIGIEG AT 2% IN SOUTH CAROLINA FOX NEWS POLL: Fox News polled  South Carolina Democratic primary voters: Biden 35%, Sanders 14, Harris 12, Warren 5, Booker 3, Buttigieg 2, Delaney 1, Williamson 1, Yang 1, Everyone else <1.

BUTTIGIEG PRESSES PLAN TO REDUCE RACISM: Pete Buttigieg has a message for white liberals who decry racism: "Good intentions are not going to be enough" (AP). The Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend, Indiana, mayor is combating perceptions that he's out of touch with black people and will struggle to win their votes. On Thursday, he unveiled his most detailed proposals yet, which he says are aimed at addressing the systemic racism that affects the black community. And he's pairing that with candid talk aimed at white Democrats. "White Democratic voters want to do the right thing but maybe haven't fully thought about what that means or what that requires of us," Buttigieg said in an Associated Press interview. "The reality is America as a whole is worse off when these inequities exist."

BUTTIGIEG HEADS BACK TO NH: Mayor Pete Buttigieg will make his eighth trip to New Hampshire to discuss his bold new plan to reignite a sense of unity in America by dramatically increasing national service opportunities (Howey Politics Indiana). Dubbed “A New Call to Service”, the Mayor’s initiative will build a network of 1 million National Service Members by the 250th anniversary of America’s Independence in 2026. The Mayor will attend a barn party in Rye, a Meet Pete! event in Dover, join a tour of downtown Rochester with City Councilor Jeremy Hutchinson, and headline an event in Laconia.

SENATE DEMS WANT TO NARROW PRESIDENTIAL FIELD: Senate Democrats hope Rep. Eric Swalwell’s (D-Calif.) decision to drop out of the crowded presidential field is a sign of things to come (The Hill). The anxiety in the Senate about the crowded race mimics the nervousness of Democratic voters who worry their party will blow a second presidential contest against President Trump and who see the 25-candidate race as a hindrance. Democratic senators also see a potential silver lining to a narrowing field: They are holding out hope that candidates like Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D), former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) could still run for the Senate. “I’d like to get the debate into a one-night event. Right now, with 25 or whatever the number is, that’s hard to do,” said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.). Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said “it has to narrow down.”


YOUNG TO MEET WITH GRAIN FARMERS, AMERICAN LEGION: U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) will take part in an agriculture roundtable discussion hosted by the Indiana Corn Growers Association and the Indiana Soybean Alliance in Romney, Indiana, and will speak at the 101st Department of Indiana American Legion Convention in Indianapolis (Howey Politics Indiana). The agriculture event will take place two days after USDA announced an extension of the crop reporting deadline to July 22 due to the difficult planting season from prolonged rain. This announcement comes in response to a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue led by Senator Todd Young (R-Ind.) and other members of the Indiana delegation. Young will speak to the American Legion convention about his recent efforts to provide services for America’s veterans. Senator Young recently introduced a resolution celebrating the 100th anniversary of the American Legion. This week, Senator Young also introduced a bill to curb veteran homelessness and last month filed legislation to provide free TSA Precheck to disabled veterans.

CARSON TO HOST PELOSI AT INDIANPOLIS LIBRARY: On Friday, July 19th, U.S. Rep. Andre Carson will host a Speaker in the House event with Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the Indianapolis Public Library (Howey Politics Indiana). The two of us will lead a conversation on women’s equality, health care and the economy (Howey Politics Indiana. Through the Speaker in the House series, Speaker Pelosi has visited communities across the country to talk about House Democrats’ efforts to empower every day Americans through bold reforms. I am reaching out to invite you to this exciting event. Women on average still earn less money than their male counterparts for the same work. And for women of color, this inequality is even larger. In Indiana, which was recently ranked 48 out of 50 for pay equity, solving this problem is particularly crucial. At the same time, women are struggling to afford basic health care needs for themselves and their families. Nationwide, women are the primary, sole, or co-breadwinner in 64 percent of all American families.

General Assembly

BOSMA REACTS TO CNBC INFRASTRUCTURE REPORT: House Speaker Brian C. Bosma (R-Indianapolis) reacted to CNBC ranking Indiana No. 1 in the country for infrastructure (Howey Politics Indiana): “Indiana is once again in the spotlight as a national leader for making strong investments in roads and bridges. Our road funding plan is based on conservative principles where those who use the roads help pay for them, and we don’t pass on debt to future generations. Our responsible, comprehensive and sustainable plan has propelled us to the top and most important, Hoosier drivers and employers are seeing the positive results in their local communities.”

REP. PORTER COMMENTS ON STATE SURPLUS FUNDS: State Rep. Gregory W. Porter (D-Indianapolis), ranking Democrat on the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee, today issued the following statement on today’s closeout of the state budget (Howey Politics Indiana): “Chicken Little’s complaints that the sky is falling have nothing on the Republicans in the governor’s office and the General Assembly. Remember their proclamations back in April about the risk of shortfalls in revenue and how that would prevent some programs from getting the funding they deserved? Now we find that things aren’t so bad after all…like usual. In April, Republicans were predicting a shortfall of close to $100 million. Now we see that there is a surplus of more than $410 million. We also see them continuing to play their little game with reversions as a means to build the surplus. This time they have reverted more than $180 million from Medicaid, which we had been told in the spring was in a crisis situation. So now that we do have more funding, is it OK to spend some money now?"

TALLIAN COMMENTS ON SURPLUS FUNDS: State Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes) had the following response to Governor Holcomb’s proposal to use $300 million of Indiana’s budget reserves to pay for projects that were already appropriated in the budget (Howey Politics Indiana): “I’m extremely frustrated that the governor has decided to use $300 million of the budget reserves to pay down projects already appropriated in the budget, especially when there are so many programs that have been completely ignored that desperately need funding. Raising teacher pay, addressing beach erosion issues, funding the mortgage foreclosure program – these are all things that we could have done with our $2.3 billion surplus. Instead of paying for those things in the first place, the governor chose to store money away and deprive our state of much needed improvements. Now he’s using the excess revenue to fund projects that have already been funded! I wish I could say I’m surprised, but I’m not.”


GOVERNOR: CROUCH CONCLUDES MEXICAN TRIP -  In Mexico, Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch concluded her agriculture, economic development and tourism trip by meeting with Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development Dr. Victor Villalobos (Howey Politics Indiana). Indiana was the first state in the nation to send a high-profile official delegation to Mexico, after the country’s ratification of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement in June. "Indiana and Mexico are bound together, and not just geographically by country, but economically,” Crouch said. “This meeting was a significant moment in our long and cherished history, and I look forward to building on our conversation to take agriculture and our two economies to the Next Level.” During the meeting, Lt. Governor Crouch and Secretary Villalobos discussed opportunities to promote trade and enhance cooperation in the areas of food production, economic development, education and technology. They also talked about the importance of sustainability, as well as the need to encourage more innovation on the farm. Indiana State Department of Agriculture Director Bruce Kettler, who was part of the conversation, found it to be very productive and hopes it will lead to new opportunities for Indiana’s farmers.

GOVERNOR: CROUCH COMMENTS ON STATE FINANCES: Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch reacted to the fiscal announcement from the auditor of state released Thursday (Howey Politics Indiana): “As the former auditor of state I want to give thanks to Governor Holcomb and our state’s fiscal leaders, Indiana remains in a nearly unmatched financial position. I applaud the Governor’s proposal to make major investments in our infrastructure, postsecondary institutions and Indiana State Fairgrounds. In taking these steps, we unlock future savings that position us well to address teacher compensation in future budgets.”

GOVERNOR: CROUCH SCHEDULE - Below is Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch's public schedule for July 12, 2019, Branchville Correctional Facility, 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m., CT, 21390 Old State Road 37, Branchville.

STATEHOUSE: HILL WINS CIVIL CASE IN LAWRENCEBURG - Attorney General Curtis Hill this week won a civil case against Ohio Casualty Insurance Company to recover $224,690 misappropriated by former Lawrenceburg Clerk-Treasurer Theresa L. Bruening (Howey Politics Indiana). In 2017, the Office of the Attorney General filed a civil complaint against Bruening and Ohio Casualty, the provider of two crime insurance policies to the City of Lawrenceburg in Dearborn County. Bruening had pleaded guilty in federal court for wire fraud relating to unauthorized payroll checks, excess payroll contributions and duplicative payroll payments issued to herself. The State Board of Accounts charged Bruening with misappropriating public funds. In the civil case, Ohio Casualty claimed that its policies did not cover Bruening’s actions. Further, it claimed that even if its policies were applicable, too much time had elapsed since the misappropriation for it to be held liable. Dearborn Superior Court did not agree with Ohio Casualty and found the policies at issue to cover Bruening’s actions and entered judgment in favor of the state.

CORRECTIONS: ESCAPED INMATE RECAPTURED AT BEVERLY SHORES -  An inmate who escaped Wednesday from Indiana State Prison was captured early Thursday in a Beverly Shores, Ind., home, according to prison officials (AP). The inmate, Tavis Hornett, 39, of Waterloo, Iowa, had walked away from a work release assignment Wednesday afternoon, according to officials. He allegedly forcibly entered a Beverly Shores house in an effort to evade capture. Confronted shortly after midnight Thursday by the Indiana Department of Corrections Fugitive Apprehension Unit, along with Indiana State Police and other local police, Hornett surrendered without resistance, the IDOC said in a news release. No injuries were reported.

CORRECTION: NEW CASTLE GUARD CHARGED FOR SEX WITH PRISONER - A woman faces two felony charges over allegations she engaged in sex with an inmate while employed at the New Castle Correctional Facility (Muncie Star Press). Shonda Renee Campbell, 50, of Rushville, is charged in Henry Circuit Court 1 with sexual misconduct by a service provider and official misconduct. According to court documents filed by Henry County Prosecutor Joe Bergacs’ office, an investigation of then-corrections officer Campbell’s relationship with inmate Robert C. Wesley begin in late February. Records confirmed more than 620 calls from Wesley’s account to Campbell’s cellphone between Jan. 14 and mid-March. The prisoners’ calls are recorded, and according to investigators, many of the conversations between Campbell and Wesley were sexually charged and included references to their sexual encounters at the New Castle prison.

UTILITIES: I&M SEEKS RATE INCREASE - The first of several more public meetings last night to discuss a proposed rate hike by Indiana-Michigan Power (WIBC). The rate hike would raise the average power bill for I&M customers by a little over 11-percent from around $10 to $15 every month. That equates to about $170 million more in revenue. Brian Bergsma with Indiana-Michigan Power said the extra revenue is needed to make investments in new technology in or to better serve their customers. "We want to be the utility that our customers can count on," Bergsma said. "Unfortunately, that does involve an investment in our system. So we want to build out our infrastructure and institute technology that is reliable for decades to come."

UTILITIES: DUKE TO BUILD SOLAR PLANT NEAR PURDUE - Duke Energy says it will build a 1.6-megawatt solar power plant in the Discovery Park District near Purdue University’s main campus in West Lafayette (AP). Duke said Thursday it will lease about 10 acres from the Purdue Research Foundation for the project it calls the Tippecanoe County Solar Power Plant. Duke and the foundation say the solar power plant will generate enough electricity to power about 240 average homes. The plant with about 7,000 solar panels will be built this summer and is expected to start providing power later this year.

CRIME: CHAMBER TO HOST WORKPLACE VIOLENCE SEMINAR - The Indiana Chamber of Commerce is helping businesses tackle the sensitive and all-too-real subject of workplace violence. On August 14, the Active Threats in the Workplace Workshop will focus on how to identify, address and prevent these tragic incidents from happening (Howey Politics Indiana). Industry expert Vantage Point Consulting will be presenting the program. The event is designed to equip participants and their businesses with the knowledge to detect warning signs and respond to an active threat, should it arise, as well as demonstrate techniques for de-escalation and prevention activities that can help keep businesses safe.  Employees’ mental state of mind and other factors, including situational awareness and sharing information, will also be discussed. Attendees will leave the workshop with a preventative checklist to take back to their business as a basis for creating a plan to ensure a safer environment. The event runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Indiana Chamber conference center in downtown Indianapolis. The cost to attend is $399 for each Indiana Chamber member and $499 for each non-member.


WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP DROPS CENSUS QUESTION - President Trump said Thursday he is dropping his administration’s effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, a reversal that comes days after he demanded his team push forward after the Supreme Court blocked the move (The Hill). Trump said that he would instead issue an executive order requiring federal agencies to provide the Commerce Department information on citizens and noncitizens in the United States, a process he said would provide a more accurate count. “Today, I am here to say we are not backing down on our effort to determine the citizenship status of the United States population,” Trump said during remarks in the Rose Garden of the White House, flanked by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Attorney General William Barr. “I'm proud to be a citizen,” Trump continued. “You're proud to be a citizen. The only people that are not proud to be citizens are the ones who are fighting us all the way about the word ‘citizen.’"

WHITE HOUSE: GRAHAM TO TRAVEL WITH PENCE TO BORDER - U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham will travel with Vice President Mike Pence to the southern border Friday to see first-hand conditions at federal immigration detention centers (Greenville News). The South Carolina Republican will make the trip at a time when the Trump administration is facing intense criticism for how federal law enforcement officials have handled the influx of migrants seeking entry into the United States, particularly their treatment of children traveling alone or separated from their families. Press reports and eyewitness accounts from elected officials detail boys and girls sleeping on concrete floors and drinking toilet water. There have also been allegations of sexual assault. “I haven’t been so I just want to look,” Graham told a small group of reporters on Wednesday. “I do want to get to any abuse allegations, but I just know the flow is overwhelming. Word’s out on the street, if you apply for asylum here, you’re just not going to go back.”

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP SCHEDULE - President Trump will leave the White House today at 9:15 a.m. for Joint Base Andrews, where he'll fly to Milwaukee. He's scheduled in at 10:25 a.m. Central time, and will go to a residence in Fox Point for a fundraiser. He is scheduled to go to Derco Aerospace Inc. at 1:05 p.m. for a USMCA speech. At 2:15 p.m., he will head to the airport, where he'll fly to Cleveland for a fundraiser. At 8 p.m. Eastern time, he'll fly from Cleveland back to Andrews. He's scheduled back into Andrews at 9:25 p.m. and to the White House at 9:35 p.m.

PENTAGON: DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE GOES 7 MONTHS WITHOUT LEADER - When he resigned as defense secretary last December, Jim Mattis thought it might take two months to install a successor. That seemed terribly long at the time. Seven months later, the U.S. still has no confirmed defense chief even with the nation facing potential armed conflict with Iran. That’s the longest such stretch in Pentagon history (AP). There is also no confirmed deputy defense secretary, and other significant senior civilian and military Pentagon positions are in limbo, more than at any recent time. The causes are varied, but this leadership vacuum has nonetheless begun to make members of Congress and others uneasy, creating a sense that something is amiss in a critical arm of the government at a time of global uncertainty. William Cohen, a former Republican senator who served as defense secretary during President Bill Clinton’s second term, says U.S. allies — “and even our foes” — expect more stability than this within the U.S. defense establishment. “It is needlessly disruptive to have a leadership vacuum for so long at the Department of Defense as the department prepares for its third acting secretary in less than a year,” Cohen told The Associated Press.

MEDIA: SUNDAY TALK - "Fox News Sunday": Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.). Panel: Jason Chaffetz, Jane Harman, Josh Holmes and Juan Williams. CNN "State of the Union": Panel: Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), Scott Jennings, Andrew Gillum and Amanda Carpenter. CBS "Face the Nation": Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstein and Douglas Brinkley. Panel: Ben Domenech, Toluse Olorunnipa and Paula Reid. NBC "Meet the Press": Panel: Bob Costa, Carlos Curbelo, Hallie Jackson and Claire McCaskill. ABC "This Week": Tom Steyer and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.). Panel: Chris Christie, Rahm Emanuel, Rachael Bade and Alexi McCammond. CNN "Inside Politics" (guest-hosted by Phil Mattingly): Jeff Zeleny, Lisa Lerer, Seung Min Kim and Michael Bender.

TERROR: FISHERS MEN INDICTED FOR SELLING TO ISIS - Two brothers have been indicted on charges that they provided support to ISIS (WIBC). Moyad Dannon, 21, and Mahde Dannon, 20, both of Fishers, both face multiple firearms charges and one count of attempting to provide material support and resources, including firearms, to ISIS, said U.S. Atty. Josh Minkler. Both men have been in custody since May15, when they were arrested, said a news release from the Dept. of Justice. The feds believe that in June 2018, Mahde Dannon, who was awaiting trial on felony theft charges in Lake County, Indiana, hatched a scheme to deliver firearms, including stolen firearms, to a convicted felon who was cooperating with the FBI. The following month, Mahde Dannon introduced his brother Moyad Dannon to the cooperating individual, and the cooperating individual later introduced the Dannon brothers to an undercover FBI agent.

OKLAHOMA: COPS FIND RATTLESNAKE, URANIUM, WHISKEY IN TRAFFIC STOP - Police in Oklahoma say they found a rattlesnake, a canister of radioactive powdered uranium and an open bottle of Kentucky Deluxe whiskey during a traffic stop of a vehicle that had been reported stolen (AP). The traffic stop happened June 26 in Guthrie, about 30 miles (45 kilometers) north of Oklahoma City. Guthrie police Sgt. Anthony Gibbs told Oklahoma City TV station KFOR that police don't know why the uranium was in the vehicle or how it was obtained, though uranium ore can be bought on Amazon. Gibbs says police also found a gun in the console and a terrarium in the backseat containing a pet Timber rattlesnake.


CITIES: BUTTIGIEG TAPS KAIN TO REPLACE MUELLER - Mayor Pete Buttigieg has tapped his deputy public works director, Jitin Kain, to head up community investment while James Mueller runs for mayor (South Bend Tribune). Mueller has been on a leave of absence from the position since January as he campaigns to succeed Buttigieg, whose term ends at the end of the year. Mueller, after winning the May 7 Democratic mayoral primary, said he planned to return to work in mid-June. But Mueller recently said he would not return to the job because the city's ethics policy would prohibit him from running the department and soliciting campaign donations from people whose businesses deal with the city.

CITIES: WESTFIELD MAYOR'S SONS SOLD PROPERTY TO CITY - About the time Westfield Mayor Andy Cook launched a task group in 2007 to study how to redevelop downtown, his two sons bought property that would later become part of the Grand Junction Plaza project (IndyStar). A decade later the brothers sold the one-story, three-bedroom house at 217 Union St. to the city for $255,000, nearly double what they paid. The return on investment, which was similar to what other property owners received from the city, eclipsed the average rise in property values. Ethics experts interviewed by IndyStar said the situation raises a number of red flags, including the timing of the purchase and Andy Cook's role in advocating for a development that ultimately would financially benefit his sons. Poised to break ground this summer, the Grand Junction Plaza has long been criticized for its $35 million price tag and what some critics see as the city's lack of transparency surrounding the project. Julia Vaughn, policy director for government watchdog group Common Cause Indiana, said the timing of the brothers' purchase and subsequent sale appears "more than coincidental."

CITIES: KOKOMO MAN WON'T RACE VOTE FRAUD CHARGES - A Kokomo businessman who has for weeks battled an accusation of voter fraud will not face charges, Howard County’s prosecutor announced Thursday (Myers, Kokomo Tribune). Allen Wilson, the owner of Competition Towing & Recovery, has been cleared of criminal wrongdoing because of “insufficient evidence to show an intent to defraud,” according to Prosecutor Mark McCann. It is welcome news for Wilson, whose company has faced significant financial repercussions after being suspended from the city’s towing contract in mid-May amidst the controversy over whether he voted illegally in this spring’s primary election. The city’s Board of Public Works and Safety will likely vote at an upcoming meeting on whether to reinstate Competition on the contract.

CITIES: MAYOR HENRY SEEKS $1M FOR NEIGHBORHOODS - Mayor Tom Henry today announced a new initiative designed to enhance neighborhoods and provide additional opportunities for other programs aimed at improving the quality of life in Fort Wayne (Howey Politics Indiana). The programming possibilities are a result of additional revenues collected by the State of Indiana through income taxes. A total of $3.86 million is being distributed to the City of Fort Wayne over and above what was budgeted for in 2019.

CITIES: LEGAL EXPERTS BACK BLOOMINGTON ON VENDOR - A panel of law experts echoed what the City of Bloomington has already stated; banning a farmer’s market vendor with alleged ties to neo-Nazi’s would be a violation of the vendor's First Amendment rights (Indiana Public Media). A pair of law professors, the head of the Indiana ACLU and a community organizer fielded questions from a packed city hall auditorium Thursday night. Most in attendance asked if there was any way the city could ban Schooner Creek Farms from the public farmer’s market. Schooner Creek’s Sarah Dye has allegedly posted on a white supremacist website, and met with Nolan Brewer, a white supremacist convicted of vandalizing a synagogue in Carmel. IU Maurer School of Law Professor Jeannine Bell says kicking Dye out of the market solely on her views is unconstitutional. “Lies are protected by the First Amendment, strange but true," Bell says.

CITIES: JUDGE DENIES RESTRAINING ORDER - A judge denied a request Thursday for a restraining order against a Bloomington man who was accused of harassing the owner of a Brown County farm (Indiana Public Media). Sarah Dye told Judge Frank Nardi on Monday that Thomas Westgard is engaged in an "ongoing, routine effort of harrassment" against her. Dye is a vendor at the Bloomington Farmer's Market. Published reports surfaced in May linking her to white supremacist Nolan Brewer. Brewer was convicted of vandalizing a synagogue in Carmel. He told FBI agents he met with Dye and that she shared similar views.

CITIES: BLOOMINGTON COULD BLOCK DOG, CAT SALES - Some Bloomington commission members are recommending a ban on the sale of cats and dogs, except from a shelter or animal rescue (Indiana Public Media).  Rebecca Warren is the chair for the city’s Animal Control Commission. She says the Monday vote was meant to open a conversation about where animals for sale come from and their living conditions. “This is one way to say for sure and for a fact we as a community don’t want animals that come from inhumane conditions of a puppy mill-type situation into our community," Warren says.